Friday, October 31, 2014

TailGate Taproom Is Open on Charlotte Pike — Owner Has Big Plans

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 8:53 AM

TailGate Beer has officially completed their move from San Diego to Nashville with the opening last weekend of their 7,000-plus-square-foot taproom facility in the old Moose Lodge building at 7300 Charlotte Pike. Don't let that big address number scare you off; while it's technically in Bellevue, TailGate is located just a couple of minutes off I-40 at either Exit 201 or 199, right around the corner from the Sam's Club on Old Hickory Boulevard.

I dropped in to speak with TailGate founder/CEO Wesley Keegan in the main taproom earlier this week, and he is quite enthusiastic about the venture. His company sells beer through distributors (Ajax Turner locally) to major retailers in 14 states, although they are not actually brewing anything in their new Nashville digs yet. Currently, Minhas Brewery in southern Wisconsin produces TailGate's two flagship brands, Blacktop Blonde and Session IPA, although it isn't exactly the traditional contract brewing relationship like Yazoo and Blackstone practice with other breweries. Instead, Keegan refers to it as a "alternating proprietorship," an arrangement where companies can rent out excess capacity and time at another brewery and use the equipment and their own sourced ingredients to create their own products.

Keegan does have a small three-barrel brewing system on order for his new facility to do some experimental brewing and R&D as well as special small-batch brews for the local market. Plans to expand further include the addition of a commercial brewhouse that could be as big as 50 barrels of brewing capacity and much more fermentation room in the tanks. And TailGate has plenty of room to add all of that equipment, since the monstrous three-room taproom occupies only about a third of the former Moose Lodge. (Those mooses needed room to roam apparently.) Keegan and his associates had to spend a fair amount time cleaning up and rehabbing the building, which is still a little minimalist in decor.

The main taproom has a draft and growler filling system with 20 taps, two of which are dedicated to TailGate products, with the rest set aside for interesting local, regional and international beers. "We want to stock at least one beer from every local brewer, and whenever we blow a keg, we'll replace it with another option from that same brewer'" shares Keegan. "We're also looking to stock really rare and limited-release beers that you can't easily find in the area." The bar is also committed to using the right glassware with none of the traditional shaker pints. Instead, they'll serve 5.5-ounce tasters in tulip glasses and proper pints in a 20-ounce glass with an actual pour line at the 16.9 ounce level to leave room for a head.

The non-smoking, non-vaping taproom is all ages, with a rotating non-alcoholic root beer on tap and also a cider offering that is decidedly not for the kiddies. A dedicated nitro spout will also offer stouts and other beers that benefit from the specialized delivery system. Prices range from $2.50 and $4.50 for tasters and pints of TailGate beers to $3 for small pours of other brands and market pricing on pints of non-TailGate beer, depending on the rarity of the brew.

A monstrous projection television takes up a wall of the main taproom, and there's also room for live music in the future. But thanks to the flexibility of the multiple rooms of the old lodge, there is also a quiet room they are calling the Café, with with no televisions, picnic tables for games and cards, music playing, and space to relax. Like your favorite coffee shop, but with beer instead of coffee.

The TailGate campus actually covers over 17 acres, and there is already a party barn, which Keegan has restored for events and rental opportunities. Since their beer license allows for consumption anywhere on the property, expect springtime to bring a picnic and dining area, tailgater games like cornhole and horseshoes, an outdoor concert pavilion and a community garden where they'll grow a crop of hops.

Speaking of food, it's BYO at TailGate, but they are arranging food truck visits and encourage folks to bring in a spread and stay all day if they'd like. They will eventually offer some small bites, but don't expect anything fancy. Keegan hinted that their "charcuterie plate" will actually be Lunchables. They also want to invite homebrewers to come use their small system when it's installed and are considering brewing custom batches for restaurants to serve on their own taps. There are also plans to allow groups to come in for corporate teambuilding and brewing sessions (hint, hint, Mr. Pink!) The facility will also be available for rental for holiday events.

Right now, TailGate has only four employees, but they will soon be hiring aggressively for brewers and taproom workers. They also plan to offer a small retail area with local products and homebrewing supplies and a bottle shop stocking hard-to-find beers.

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The Weekly Open Thread: What's in Your Halloween Candy Bowl?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 31, 2014 at 7:51 AM

Earlier this week, Megan Seling performed the public service of checking out various limited-edition Halloween/autumnal/pumpkin-spicy variations of standard sweets.

Most were fairly repulsive, though I could definitely polish off a package of Pumpkin Spice Oreos if called upon to do so. Caramel Apple Oreos, on the other hand, are palatable only if you strategically scrape off the neon-green apple creme, leaving the less-objectionable caramel-flavored swirl.

When it comes to the Halloween candy bowl, I stick to my favorite classics: Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (full-size, which I've decided have a better choco-to-PB ratio), Mounds bars (coconut and corn syrup canoodling with dark chocolate) and the salty-sweet Take 5 (a candy bar with a pretzel in it!). Kids don't appear to disdain my choices, but my faves probably aren't tops in popularity among the your vote. I just buy the candy that I like, preparing for the possibility (or the hope) that no kids show up and I have to eat it all.

Some adults buy their least favorite candy for a reverse motivation: Buy the stuff you hate, and you won't be tempted to wrest it from the hands of the little urchins (or Elsas or Olafs) at the door.

Recently in the nostalgia candy aisle at Cracker Barrel I encountered one of my favorites from childhood: the Chick-O-Stick, made in Lufkin, Texas. Kinda looks like a genetically modified cylinder of fried chicken, but tastes like peanut butter wrapped in coconut, with a crisp snap when you bite it (unless it's stale). I could definitely stand to stock up on some of those, even though the friendly cowboy chicken mascot isn't pictured on the wrapper anymore.

Anyway, after last week's relatively healthy exploration of the broad palette of palate-pleasing apples, I gotta ask about the sweet stuff. What's in your Halloween candy stash? Any sugary cravings from childhood Halloweens that haunt you?

And what else is rattling around in your brain ... mmm ... brains ... BRAINS!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Halloween Food and Drink Options Abound

Posted By on Thu, Oct 30, 2014 at 7:47 AM

With Halloween falling on a Friday this year, the potential for "double amateur night" craziness is alarmingly high. But if you're brave enough to venture out and show off your clever celebrity costume (take a lesson from Conan and don't even think about messing with Madeleine Albright), there are a bunch of opportunities to enjoy some fine food and drink on Halloween night.

Read on and keep your favorite car service on speed-dial:

On the beer front, a couple of local breweries have events planned. Over at Tennessee Brew Works, they're keeping the doors open late for a party, which will roll from 5 to 10 on Friday night. They'll have live music featuring The TN Warblers, a costume contest, a pumpkin judging contest, pumpkin bowling and plenty of craft beer, including their special Prichard’s Barrel-Aged beers. Admission is free, and attendees in costume will enjoy discounted pint purchases.

Black Abbey is also extending the hours at their Fellowship Hall for a "Halloween After Hours" spook-tacular. If any of you attended Black Abbey's first birthday party, then you know that the crew there leans toward music that is heavy and metallic. A $5 cover is all you'll pay to enjoy the thrashings of Timid Death and Hard Rock Zombies. There will also be a costume contest with the winner receiving a full growler and some Black Abbey swag.

Did you know that the pool room at The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium is purported to be haunted? It's true, or least supposedly. Or else why would CNN have produced a segment about how the former Union Station's baggage claim room might still have travelers waiting for their luggage? So the Saucer seems to be an appropriately creepy place to pass your All Hallow's Eve as they throw a Halloween Bash on Friday night. There will be live music by performer Diamond Carter from 8 to midnight, as well as a costume contest for all the attendees who are into the "spirit" of the evening. Guests will also get the chance to try the brew from the Mystery Beer Barrel for $3.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chicago’s Doughnut Vault Headed to the Gulch

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 3:49 PM

For transplanted Chicagoans in Nashville, the local dining scene is starting to look very familiar. In a good way. Dale Levitski created Sinema in the old Melrose Theater. City Winery opened a Music City outpost. I already told you about Jay’s Chicago. I’m waiting (with a watering mouth) for Maneet Chauhan’s Chauhan Ale & Masala House to serve her Indian street food already.

But the recent news that Doughnut Vault has picked Nashville as what looks to be its first non-Windy City location has my adrenaline going (or maybe that’s a blood sugar spike).

For those who haven’t had the pleasure, Doughnut Vault is a Chicago baker with a cult-like following. Crowds form to grab the offbeat varieties plus what many say is the best glazed doughnut around. When I say crowds, I mean actual hordes of people lining up. I mean a line around the corner before doors open at 8:30 a.m.

This is because when the tiny DV kitchen sells out, it locks up for the day. If they sell out of sweet, hole-in-the-center goodness by 9:30 a.m.? They tell you to come back tomorrow. The small space feels like you’re standing inside a Tiffany gift box, blue and shiny and full of anticipation, as you wait for your turn to buy a giant doughnut (or dozen), fritter and/or coffee.

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The Vegetarian Flavor Bible Is Packed With Ideas

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 8:44 AM

A couple of years ago, I included The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg in my annual gift guide. It's a fantastic book that is filled with inspiration for cooks at all levels. Now Page has a new book (with photos by Dornenburg), The Vegetarian Flavor Bible. The book is the result of the author's own experience with eating less meat and the frustration felt by avoiding certain ingredients while shopping rather than seeking out ingredients to use. Page started by deciding what and how she should be eating and then how to make the most of those selections with creative flavoringss and pairings.

The book also addresses how to eat healthfully, acknowledging that not all vegetarian and vegan food is actually good for you. The introduction includes quite a bit of information on nutrition and how to make good choices, which is helpful for any reader, not just those pursuing a veg*n lifestyle. The bulk of the 500-plus page book, however is flavor matchmaking and cooking tips just like the original, but with exclusively vegetarian ingredients. This would be a particularly handy reference book for members of local farm CSAs. For example, there are two pages dedicated to parsnips, which are plentiful right now. Suggestions include parsnip jam with vanilla and rice wine vinegar, a multilayered parsnip soup, parsnips roasted with ginger and orange juice, and parsnips paired with maple syrup and pecans.

Other sections of the book include how to use flavors and ingredients to sate certain cravings, menus and notes from renowned chefs, and a detailed timeline of vegetarianism and the local food and farm-to-table movements over hundreds of years. The book is available online and in bookstores.

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Whiskey Wednesday: Cumberland Cask Releases Ruby Cut

Posted By on Wed, Oct 29, 2014 at 7:55 AM

A little over a year ago, Jason Eskind released his two expressions of Tennessee whiskey under the brand Cumberland Cask. His first two products — the 80-proof Modern Expressions and Barrel Cut, an unfiltered 120-proof version of his brown liquor — have been well-received.

But Eskind hasn't been resting on his laurels. He's been working behind the scenes on an exciting new product that is rolling out in the market this week, Ruby Cut. This is a 90-proof whiskey made by aging his base product in California port barrels. Since aging in the summer is different from the slower process of aging in cold weather, Eskind divided his small batch into two lots and filled an equal number of barrels during the summer and during the winter. The whiskeys lay in repose here in Nashville for six months apiece until it was time to blend them together and bottle them for a unique small release.

The port barrels contribute a lot of color and character to Cumberland Cask Ruby Cut. Probably the most notable effect of the experiment is a dramatic smoothing out of the finish, especially when you consider it is a higher proof than a lot of other Tennessee whiskeys. This is the result of the two separate aging sessions interrupted by some extra time mellowing in steel vats while the other half of the batch is taking a short oak nap.

The original plan was to bottle the summer batch and the winter batch separately, but when they were blended the resulting product was too good to pass up. Ruby Cut will be a very limited release and should be available at better liquor stores around town starting this week for around $60 per bottle. It will not be distributed outside of Middle Tennessee, so if you have a long-distance whiskey aficionado on your holiday gift list, Ruby Cut might just be the ticket.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

New Wine and Spirits Shop to Open in the Gulch

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 7:22 PM

Working at SouthComm is about to get a whole lot cooler. Because soon there will be a new wine and spirits shop opening just down the street from our offices, in the retail space next to Hops & Crafts. 12th & Pine Beverage Co. is the newest project from Ed Fryer, the man behind some of the most esteemed wine shops in Nashville. Fryer has opened and/or operated a string of successful operations (although not at the same time thanks to Tennessee's arcane spirits laws) including Village Wines, The Wine Shoppe at Green Hills and (yn) wine store. Fryer also designed and created RED, a game-changer of a retail establishment in Bellevue.

Fryer's new project will be at 315 12th Ave. S., and his plans for the store look really exciting. "We want to create an eclectic, fun, progressive wine shop with really cool wines from small wineries, made by real and honest winemakers that care about the land, tradition and their heritage. We will be the leader in high-end, rare, well-rated collectable wines. We will also have the most upscale, cutting edge spirits and mixers that are the secret ingredients of all of the great drinks made in the best restaurants and bars in Nashville."

In addition, he says, "We will carry many local products, mixers and gift items. We will have craft beers and will add growlers after the holidays to complete the largest selection of growlers in one block, along with those at Hops & Crafts."

In other words, don't look for a Great Wall of Franzia near the front door. As a businessman, Fryer has a reputation for getting ahead of trends, whether offering affordable-but-unfamiliar wines at (yn) or using iPads to inform wine buyers and opening a comfortable tasting bar at RED. He seems to realize that with the advent of wine in grocery stores on the horizon, the best future for a small wine store is to work collaboratively with customers to introduce them to wines and spirits that likely won't make it to the shelves at Harris Teeter or The Turnip Truck next door.

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The Sweet Spot: Limited-Edition Halloween Candy

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 2:02 PM

The Sweet Spot is a new weekly Bites feature where sugar addict Megan Seling reviews some of the best, worst and weirdest sweet treats sold here in Nashville. It will appear on the blog on Tuesdays.

What it is: Pumpkin Spice Oreos, Caramel Apple Oreos, Candy Corn M&Ms, Pumpkin Spice M&Ms, Caramel Apple Milky Ways, Caramel Apple Twizzlers, Starburst Candy Corn

Where I found it: Target on White Bridge Road; prices vary around $2.50-$5

What it tastes like: Oh man, where do I start? I couldn't climb this artificially autumnal sugar mountain on my own, so I brought this heap of high-fructose corn syrup into the office where my co-workers could enjoy (and/or suffer) along with me. There was delight, disgust and audible barfing sounds as everyone dug in.

The candy that got the most negative reaction were the Candy Corn M&Ms, which are jumbo-sized orange, white and yellow white-chocolate M&Ms that taste more like cotton candy than they do candy corn. They're sickeningly sweet, but I did not hate them; everyone else hated them. "I hate that Candy Corn M&M more than anything I’ve ever tasted," said one brave eater while tossing the few pieces left in her hand into the trash. The Pumpkin Spice M&Ms passed all tests, however, with some folks claiming they don't taste any different from regular M&Ms. The pumpkin spice flavor is not overwhelming, and slightly off. When I pushed them aside, saying they just taste like burnt M&Ms, others grabbed for them. "That sounds delicious!" said one staffer, wrongly.

The Starburst Candy Corn, a giant bag of congealed rainbow-colored goo that vaguely carries the texture of candy corn when not globbed together by sugary juice that is seeping from the candies, also wasn't very popular. Only one person on staff enjoyed them. "I actually really like the Starbust candy corn," he said, grabbing for the bag. "They just taste like Starbursts!"

"But look at them!" I cried, pointing out the fact that they were all melting together at room temperature.

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America, Pho Yeah

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 1:52 PM

A Bites tipster in Clarksville passes along the following restaurant sign, to which we can only add our applause.


We'll accept alternate headlines or captions in the comments, if you have them.

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12 South Winter Warmer Tickets On Sale This Friday, But You Can Cut the Line!

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 1:04 PM

IMHO (in my hoppy opinion) the 12 South Winter Warmer is the premiere beer festival in town. Organizer Matt Leff of Rhizome Productions limits the number of tickets sold to 1000 to allow for patrons to really interact with the brewers at the event, who reciprocate this attention by bringing some truly special beers to share with their fans. Leff expects 40+ breweries to exhibit at the 2014 12 South Winter Warmer, so bundle up and come thirsty.

This year's event will return to Sevier Park on Dec. 6 from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. Tickets will go on sale this Friday, Oct 31 at 10 a.m,, and if past years are any indication, will sell out within minutes. However, if you don't trust your luck to snag some of those desired ducats, there's another fun chance on Thursday to win a chance to buy some the day before they officially go on sale.

Starting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at Craft Brewed at 2502 Franklin Pike, visitors to that fine taproom will receive raffle tickets. At 7, the 12 South Winter Warmer organizers will begin to draw numbers, and anyone holding the lucky tickets will get the chance to buy two tickets in advance. You must be in attendance at 7 to win, and also be prepared to buy your tickets immediately. If for some reason you only want to buy one ticket, they'll either draw another number, or I'm sure you could find a friend in attendance who might be willing to buy you a pint for the chance to purchase your other ticket.

The first hundred tickets will be sold in this manner, with the rest of them flying into Internet shopping carts the next morning at 10, so make plans and bookmark the sale site!

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